Trends in the Orthopaedic Surgery Subspecialty Fellowship Match: Assessment of 2010 to 2017 Applicant and Program Data

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Abstract

Background:

Orthopaedic surgery has become increasingly specialized, and most trainees currently complete subspecialty fellowship training. The purposes of this investigation were to evaluate recent trends in U.S. orthopaedic fellowship matches and to provide relevant analyses for future orthopaedic fellowship applicants and fellowship program directors.

Methods:

This study analyzed data from orthopaedic fellowship match programs from 2010 to 2017. For each fellowship, the following variables were analyzed: numbers of positions offered, participating programs, applicant registrations, rank lists submitted by applicants (i.e., completed applications), applicants matched, and filled positions. Applicant-matching success rate and percentage of total fellowship positions filled for each subspecialty were calculated, and trends were evaluated for significance and difference between subspecialties utilizing ordinary least-square regressions, with p < 0.05 indicating significance.

Results:

From 2010 to 2017, the number of fellowship positions that were offered increased in all subspecialties (p < 0.05) except for spine (p = 0.44) and trauma (p = 0.92). Participating fellowship programs increased in all subspecialties (p < 0.05) except spine (p = 0.38) and sports medicine; the latter experienced the only significant decrease (p < 0.05). The largest significant increases (p < 0.05) in both applicant registrations (33.5%) and rank lists submitted by applicants (45.3%) were in adult reconstruction. The subspecialty with the highest applicant-matching success rate during the study period of 2010 to 2017 was sports (mean, 93.5%). Spine and trauma had the lowest applicant-matching success rates in 2016 to 2017. The percentage of positions filled across all subspecialties increased from 2011 to 2017 (p < 0.05); hand had the highest mean (96.6% filled), and adult reconstruction had the largest significant increase from 82.0% in 2010 to 95.5% in 2017 (p < 0.05).

Conclusions:

This investigation provides data with regard to current trends in the orthopaedic fellowship match. Specifically, adult reconstruction fellowship training has recently gained popularity at a more rapid rate than the other subspecialty fellowship pathways, although hand surgery consistently maintains a very high rate of positions filled. Our results for orthopaedic subspecialty fellowship match trends may assist fellowship directors with program planning and career advising and may also assist current residents with fellowship application expectations and career planning.

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